Rob Portman and Dick Cheney Show That Conservatives Are The Most Selfish, Self-Centered People In The World

Rob Portman has joined Dick Cheney is supporting same-sex marriage after finding that one of their children is gay. They have no concept of supporting the same rights for everyone. They are only willing to support basic human rights for gay individuals when it affects their family. The same concept is true of the entire conservative philosophy. How many Republicans would pay no attention to partisan views on abortion should their own daughter needed an abortion but would deny this right to others?

This isn’t limited to social issues. Conservatives support limited-government when it is in their interest (ignoring this concept when it comes to imposing their religious views upon others). They promote an economic theory of limited government in order to provide philosophical cover for eliminating regulations which are a nuisance to their businesses and support for reducing their taxes. Meanwhile people like the Koch brothers are perfectly willing to use government programs to make money. They oppose government assistance programs which they do not personally need, ignoring the needs of others and failing to distinguish between a safety-net in a liberal democracy form a Marxist dictatorship. Sarah Palin made an exception in supporting assistance to disabled children because of first hand experience. If only conservatives had the capacity to consider hardships which other people’s children might face.

Google To Discontinue Google Reader

Google announced today that they will be shutting down Google Reader as of July 1, 2013. I am sad to see it go both for the convenience and blog traffic.

With social media and magazine-style aggregators taking over the web, RSS readers have fallen in use. For those of us who want to regularly scan a large number of web sites, RSS readers are more complete than the random suggestions from Facebook friends and from tweets. Of course these are not mutually exclusive. A good old fashioned RSS feed will not have the pretty graphics of programs such as Flipbook, but they  allow for getting at much more actual text information. Google Reader also allows me to read a feed on any computer (including phone or tablet) and keep what I have or have not read synchronized.

Starring items of interest makes for an easy way to go back to web sites if I don’t have time to read when going through the RSS feed when the article or blog post isn’t important enough to save to Pocket, Instapaper, or Evernote, but I do want to look at it later. It is also how I keep track of material I intend to reference in upcoming blog posts.  Between now and July I will also have to go through the items I have starred, assuming they will always be available in Google Reader, and save those which are still worth saving.

RSS readers have also been important for bloggers. Back when they were more commonly used, this blog had over 8000 subscribers through RSS feeds. Now this has fallen to around 800. Over the years there have been abrupt drops as each major online RSS reading site was discontinued. There were probably also less obvious declines as people stopped using their computer-based RSS readers. Of course some of the loss has been made up from social media which provides a large audience for the posts. My followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are comparable in number to the old RSS reader subscribers. I do bet that a far lower percentage of Facebook friends read a copy of a blog post than subscribers in RSS feeds did. (Another effect of social media has been to replace blog comments with discussion of posts on social media).

Hopefully there will be enough outrage at Google shutting down Google Reader that they will reconsider now that they are the only major on line RSS reader left. There is a petition to Google to keep it alive. After enjoying the convenience of on-line synchronization, I could not go back to the desktop-based readers I used in the past. While far fewer people are using RSS readers, I do think there are enough of us left to support at least one site. Digg and other sites are looking into providing an alternative. I hope at least one of them resists the temptation to be too fancy and just copies Google Reader with minimal enhancements.

 

Veronica Mars May Return Via Kickstart

There has been talk of a Veronica Mars movie ever since the original show went off the air. Despite its cult following, Warner didn’t believe there was enough interest to warrant production of the movie. Series creator Rob Thomas turned to Kickstarter today to obtain financing for the movie and show the interest of fans. Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell, who played the teen-aged amature detective Veronica Mars, have met with studio executives who have agreed to go ahead if they can raise the money from Kickstarter.

Following is Rob Thomas’ pitch on Kickstarter:

Almost since Veronica Mars went off the air, there’s been talk of making a movie. In that span, I’ve taken different tactics in dealing with the question of whether it might happen. To be clear, I’ve always wanted to make a Veronica Mars movie. I love writing these characters and working with these actors. Kristen Bell has always wanted to make the movie.

There was a moment, a few years ago, when we thought we had a real shot at making it happen. I developed a pitch that revolved around graduation day at Hearst college — Wallace and Mac were graduating at least, Veronica had been sidetracked by freeing Keith from prison. Plus, there was a murder in Neptune that was affecting the beach city’s spring break business in much the same way a great white shark affected the beach community of Amity. I probably stoked fan fervor in my optimistic comments about the prospects. Warner Bros. wasn’t convinced there was enough interest to warrant a major studio-sized movie about Veronica and the project never got off the ground.

After that, I tried to tamp down expectations. I didn’t want to be guilty — at least not twice — of building up hope when the odds seemed so long. Still, without fail, in every interview I do or every place I speak, I get the “will there be a Veronica Mars movie?” question. Even after a couple of years of downplaying the chances, I’d still run across blog postings headlined, “will Rob Thomas shut up about the Veronica Mars movie, already!” I was trying to. I promise. 

I first found out about Kickstarter a couple of years ago from an Austin musician friend of mine — Robert Harrison, lead singer of Cotton Mather, the band that gave us “Lily Dreams On,” our closing song of season 1. He financed a rerelease of the band’s fantastic Kontiki album. Later, I was marveling about Kickstarter with another buddy of mine who said off-handedly, “You should use Kickstarter to raise the money to make the Veronica Mars movie.” I chuckled. That seemed like a silly idea in the moment. We’d need millions. But for the next few weeks, the notion was never far from my mind. I started doing the proverbial back-of-a-cocktail-napkin math. The average pledge on Kickstarter is $71. Hell, if we could get 30,000 people to give the average donation, we could finance the movie, particularly if the cast and I were willing to work cheap. The most common donation amount on Kickstarter is $25. Surely, 80,000 of our three million viewers would find that price-point viable! 

Of course, Warner Bros. still owns Veronica Mars and we would need their blessing and cooperation to pull this off. Kristen and I met with the Warner Bros. brass, and they agreed to allow us to take this shot. They were extremely cool about it, as a matter of fact. Their reaction was, if you can show there’s enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we’re on board. So this is it. This is our shot. I believe it’s the only one we’ve got. It’s nerve-wracking. I suppose we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there’s also the chance that we completely revolutionize how projects like ours can get made. No Kickstarter project ever has set a goal this high. It’s up to you, the fans, now. If the project is successful, our plan is to go into production this summer and the movie will be released in early 2014. 

Life has taken Veronica away from Neptune. In the years since spoiling Keith’s chances to be reelected sheriff, Veronica hasn’t taken a case. But something big is about to bring her back home and back to her calling. My goal is to include as many of your favorite characters as possible. It is, after all, time for Veronica’s 10-year high school reunion. Keep in mind that the more money we raise, the cooler movie we can make. A two million dollar fundraising total probably means cross words are exchanged at the class reunion. Three million? We can afford a full-on brawl. Ten million? Who knows… For some reason the Neptune High class reunion takes place on a nuclear submarine! A Hobbit shows up! There’s a Bollywood end-credit dance number! I’ve always wanted to direct Bill Murray. We’ll figure out something cool. Hey, if that total goes high enough, I’ll bet the good folks at Warner Bros. will agree a sequel is a good idea.

Thanks to everyone who hasn’t lost faith.

Rob

Within hours of posting they are already over half-way towards their goal, making it look like this effort will be successful. The Kickstarter page includes the above video from Kristen Bell and a range of what backers can receive. This ranges from a script when filming starts for $10 to a speaking role in the movie for $10,000. The speaking role has already been taken.

Paul Ryan’s Plan To Destroy The Healthcare System

Paul Ryan might have to change his name to Paul W. Ryan after making this surprisingly honest comment on how his budget would affect health care:

This is something we will not give up on because we are not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system for the American people.

Ryan’s gaffe, or Freudian slip, is reminiscent of this classic from George W. Bush:

Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.

Among the many other faults in the plan, Ryans budget slashes Medicare spending and turns it into a voucher system. Ezra Klein reviewed the plan, estimating that this would cause about 35 million to lose their health care coverage based upon estimates from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

 

New York Soda Ban Invalidated

There was a major strike against the Nanny State today: A New York State Supreme Court judge struck down Michael Bloomberg’s regulation banning sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces.  He described the law as “arbitrary and capricious,” and questioned if it would be effective as intended to reduce obesity rates.

I spend a large part of the day treating patients with diabetes and understand what Bloomberg is trying to accomplish, but this is not a proper function of government. This is certainly not the end of this issue as Bloomberg has announced plans to appeal. Hopefully the appeal will fail, but perhaps the news surrounding this issue will cause some to reconsider their self-destructive habits. Ultimately we can try to educate, but the final decision rests with the individual.

The Next Pope?

Bad news out of Rome: There are predictions that they are going to pick former Pope Benedict’s secret idiot son to become the next Pope, George W. Ratzinger.

SciFi Weekend: Spoilers on Star Trek Into Darkness; Doctor Who News; Carrie Fisher and Star Wars VII; Joss Whedon on Superheroes; Ashley Judd Running For Senate

A new trailer has been released for Star Trek Into Darkness (video above). TrekMovie.com revealed several spoilers coming from an extended screening in Brazil:

From the extended beginning of the film…

  • Opening sequence (previewed at IMAX theaters in December) has been reordered to have Nibiru Volcano sequence now opens the film followed by title card and then the scenes in London and at the hospital

  • Nibiru mission ends with Kirk rescuing Spock by violating the prime directive by revealing the Enterprise to Nibiru natives so he can beam Spock out of the Volcano

  • Kirk has a scene in bed (back in San Francisco) in bed with two “cat women”

  • Kirk makes mention of hoping to get assigned to a “five year mission” (implying that the famed five year mission hasn’t started yet for the time he has been captain)

  • Kirk is demoted for violating prime directive on Nibiru, loses command of Enterprise with Pike to take over command Kirk as first officer

  • Pike wanted to send Kirk back to Academy but was convinced (possibly ordered?) to make Kirk first officer of Enterprise by Admiral Marcus (played by Peter Weller)

  • Spock assigned to another ship

  • The “father” character uses his Starfleet ring as a bomb (dropping it into water for a reaction) and destroys a facility (in London)

  • London attack leads to big meeting of Starfleet captains which itself is attacked by John Harrison, resulting in Pike being injured…Harrison transport away

Later scenes in the film….

  • Enterprise severely damaged falling to Earth with Spock in command ordering evacuation

  • Kirk and Scott seen in Engineering trying to stabilize ship

  • Later Spock scene beaming down to San Francisco and starting long chase with Harrions

  • Eventually Spock meets up with Harrison and engages in a fight

Doctor and Clara

The BBC has announced a three day convention at ExCeL London for the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who. Filming on the 50th Anniversary episode  begins on March 18. Presumably more information on the show, such as who is actually appearing, will be more likely to leak out when they are filming the episode. Peter Davison does not believe that the earlier Doctors played by older actors will appear:

Speaking at February’s MystiCon panel, he said: “I honestly don’t know very much. I know that Steven Moffat will have something planned. I don’t think it will involve the older Doctors, certainly in their present form, because of course we’re meant to look exactly as we did when we left the TARDIS and none of us really do. Some of us are not here any more and others of us have weathered less well than others. I don’t know where I’d put myself in that category. I’m not going to make that decision.

“I think we’ll be featured somewhere but I should think it’s probably footage lifted from older Doctor stories. I don’t know. We are doing some Big Finish audios. I know that there are events planned by the BBC. I’ve got a meeting with the head of BBC Wales when I get back to go through various things the BBC have got planned. I don’t think she’s going to offer me a part in it… I might be wrong.”

He adds: “I decided that if we weren’t going to be involved that I would get together with Colin [Baker] and Sylvester [McCoy] and make our own little special… If we can possible manage it, we’re going to get into the 50th anniversary special whether we’re invited or not!”

The Daily Beast has five facts about Jenna-Louise Coleman.

Matt Smith told The Mirror that his favorite moment on Doctor Who was kissing Jenna-Louise Coleman:

Clara and the Timelord snogged in the Christmas Day special and Matt said: “My favourite moment? I like our kiss, that was quite fun, even though it was hell to do. We actually did a couple of different versions there might be some outtakes.”

He also loves New York:

If I could film we’d film every episode of Doctor Who in New York. I have an affinity with the city. It has some wonderful locations and it is devastatingly vast and huge. Central Park looks amazing on camera.

Doctor and Clara notebook

Matt might love New York, but he cannot go back in time to whenAmy and Rory are living. We have a definitive answer as to why the Doctor will never again meet up with Amy and Rory from this interview with Steven Moffat from BlogtorWho:

Last year friend of the blog Dan Martin took time to chat with Steven Moffat about the Doctor Who Series 7 Part 1 finale, The Angels Take Manhattan  – and more specifically, “The Washington Theory”. Dan asked the current showrunner why could Amy and Rory not just travel to Washington (or Boston, or anywhere for that matter) and meet The Doctor there? Had Moffat left a useful plot thread dangling to bring the beloved companions back in a couple of years? Not so, according to Moffat…

“New York would still burn. The point being, he can’t interfere. Here’s the ‘fan answer’ – this is not what you’d ever put out on BBC One, because most people watch the show and just think, ‘well there’s a gravestone so obviously he can’t visit them again’. But the ‘fan answer’ is, in normal circumstances he might have gone back and said, ‘look we’ll just put a headstone up and we’ll just write the book’. But there is so much scar tissue, and the number of paradoxes that have already been inflicted on that nexus of timelines, that it will rip apart if you try to do one more thing. He has to leave it alone. Normally he could perform some surgery, this time too much surgery has already been performed. But imagine saying that on BBC One!”
More on the  Ponds later in the interview:
And what about return to the show for The Ponds? Moffat said, “You could never eliminate the possibility of dream sequences and flashbacks, but will the Doctor see them again? No. When I was first talking to Karen and Arthur about it, we said ‘let’s make it the proper ending’. Bringing back things just gives you sequel-itis. Just end it and get out. Heaven knows if they’ll appear in some form of flashback – I have no plans to do that I have to say – but the story of Amy and The Doctor is definitively over.”
That’s the definitive answer. Not the Doctor Who equivalent of Star Trek technobabble about that nexus of timelines that might rip apart. Doctor Who has been utterly inconsistent when dealing with the laws of time travel. The real answer is that Moffat doesn’t want them to return. His point about “sequel-itis” is more grounded in reality than the “nexus of timelines.”
None of this stops a future showrunner from having the Doctor and Amy meet again. There’s also another way to conceivably involve Amy and Rory in a Doctor Who story should Moffat or a future showrunner decide to boost ratings with such an episode. The Doctor could go back in time to Washington or anywhere else during the time in which Amy and Rory are living out their lives in the past. A story could be written in which both the Doctor and the Ponds get caught up with the same menace but are working independently and never actually meet. If this is done after the Doctor regenerates it would be possible for Amy to get a glance of the Doctor without meeting him. If she actually had much contact with him she would probably recognize him as Sarah Jane Smith recognized the Doctor.

214804-mark-hamill-carrie-fisher-luke-leia-skywalker-star-wars-episode-vii

Last week Carrie Fisher said she would be in Star Wars VII:

Disney is going to continue the Star Wars saga, producing movies set to hit theaters starting in 2015. Can you confirm whether you’ll reprise the role of Princess Leia?

Yes.

What do you think Princess Leia is like today?

Elderly. She’s in an intergalactic old folks’ home [laughs].   I just think she would be just like she was before, only slower and less inclined to be up for the big battle.

And still wearing the bagel buns?

The bagel buns and the bikini, because probably she has sundowners syndrome. At sundown, she thinks that she’s 20-something. And she puts it on and gets institutionalized.

She subsequently said she was joking (in a statement which many have speculated Disney insisted she release). While she was undoubtedly joking about being in an old folks’ home, it does appear likely that she will appear. George Lucas told Business Week that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford have all been contacted:

Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”

Hulk Iron Man

Joss Whedon discussed topics including the difficulty in making movies about the Hulk and most of the DC Comics superheroes with Deadline Hollywood:

DEADLINE: What about speculation over potential Hulk spin-off stories? 
WHEDON: The Hulk is the most difficult Marvel property because it’s always about balance. Is he a monster? Is he a hero? Are you going to root for a protagonist who spends all his time trying to stop the reason you came to the movie from happening? It’s always a dance. I don’t think the first two movies nailed it, but I don’t envy them the task. It was easier to have him in a group than to build everything around him. I don’t think there would be any problem getting a movie together that had enough Banner, even if there was also Hulk. But if he was only Hulk for the entire movie I think Mark [Ruffalo] at some point would go, why am I here? I would be less inclined to pursue a storyline where the Hulk is only ever the Hulk. Mark [Ruffalo] and I loved the Hulk and went over and over the concept of rage and how it should manifest, and that part of it was fascinating to both of us. But when it comes time for the Hulk he has to put on the silliest damn pajamas you ever saw, a tiara made of balls, and a bunch of dots on his face and growl around like an idiot. The real heart of the experience ultimately becomes playing Banner. And people fell in love with Banner because I think Mark has you from the first time he shows up.

DEADLINE: How much do you keep an eye on Warner Bros with their DC properties?
WHEDON: I don’t keep that close an eye on it. But I loved Batman Begins so much and thought Christopher Nolan nailed Batman in a way that nobody ever had. It couldn’t be more different from The Avengers, and the Marvel and DC universes are different animals. If they actually crack the code which has not been done in terms of creating a shared sensibilities where all the movies are interesting and come together, I’m going to be thrilled. I have no fear that we’re going to be stepping on each others’ turf.

DEADLINE: You’ve had a history with DC. Do you think anyone will ever pull off Wonder Woman?
WHEDON: It’s not easy. It’s not a simple trick. The Marvel properties with the exception of Batman who has often been described as the Marvel character in the DC universe are much easier to translate to a modern audience. Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern are so far above us and their powers are amorphous and that makes it 10 times harder. Even when you’re doing a fight, it’s harder to write a fight for Thor than it is for Captain America because he’s that much stronger. I loved what I was doing on Wonder Woman. Clearly I was an excited party of one. I wrote the movie, I felt good about the characters, the structure needed work, I did another outline, they read it and were done. There wasn’t even a phone call.

The difficulties which Whedon raised in superhero stories are complicated even more when the viewer is aware that the hero has a bunch of other superheroes as friends to call on. Marvel President Kevin Feige does address the question as to why Tony Stark doesn’t call in the other Avengers for help in Iron Man 3:

It’s a good question, and it’s sort of half and half. I am betting that like the comics you don’t have to keep – if you are reading a standalone “Iron Man” comic, they don’t spend every page explaining where every other Marvel hero is. The audience kind of accepts that there are times when they’re on their own and there are times when they are together. I’m betting that movie audiences will feel the same way. That being said, there is a little bit of lip service here and there to that. There is also just the very nature of Tony wants to, once he barely survives that house attack you saw today, and even you saw it in the message he left for Pepper, he’s basically saying “I’m going off the grid to try to figure something out.”

Christopher Nolan says he does not want to return to Batman, but is involved with other superheroes, producing Man of Steel and possibly Justice League. His next movie about black holes, Interstellar, will be released on November 14, 2014.

Deadline Hollywood reports that a series by Ron Moore has been picked up by SyFy:

Syfy has finalized a 13-episode straight-to-series order to Helix, a dark thriller from Ronald D. Moore, marking Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer’s return to the network. Steven Maeda (Lost, CSI: Miami) has come on board as showrunner of the project, written by Cameron Porsandeh. Helix, from Sony Pictures TV, where Moore and his Tall Ship Prods are under an overall deal, is about a team of scientists investigating a possible disease outbreak Hot In Cleveland) and Maeda executive produce, with Porsandeh serving as co-executive producer. “With its well-drawn characters, taut drama, and incredible production team, we couldn’t be more excited to see this intense thrill-ride of a series come to life,” said Syfy’s president of original content Mark Stern. Helix is expected to begin production early in 2013 to debut later this year. In addition to hit Battlestar Galactica, Moore also co-created and executive produced Syfy’s prequel series Caprica.

SyFy is moving the final five episodes of Merlin to May. And people wonder why fans often download genre shows as opposed to waiting five months or more to view them.


Ashley Judd has reportedly told advisers that she does plan to run for the Senate against Mitch McConnell. The actress, best known to Star Trek fans as Robin Lefler, has been attacked by the right wing for everything from her residency to nude scenes she as done. Attack of the Show chose Ashley Judd as the fourth Hottest Women of Star Trek (video above). She also has a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and has been a Democratic activist.

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, one of the stars of Utopia, believes that continuing the story into a second season may or may not work:

Do you think there is scope for a second series of Utopia?
“I think there is scope for a second series, but I also think that it is self-contained. It really does depend. Sometimes you think things could have carried on or things aren’t resolved, and people can get annoyed by that.

“But some pieces of work don’t have a resolution and they leave you to figure it out, and that’s great. Utopia could carry on, but resolution isn’t always good.”

Io9 lists twenty things which Back To The Future got wrong about the future.

Court Rules Fourth Amendment Applies To Border Inspection Of Electronics

While Rand Paul’s filibuster has attracted more attention, there are many civil liberties matters which are likely to affect far more Americans than the risk of being targeted by a drone. There has been a tremendous amount of negative news on some civil liberties issues, such as reproductive rights in the red states, but there was a victory for civil liberties in a court decision regarding privacy when crossing the border. Homeland security has claimed a right to search the content of laptop computers and cell phones without any reason. Having material password protected has been enough to claim potential security risks. The searches of computers could also apply to personal information on cloud-based systems connected by software to one’s computer but not physically present.

The Ninth Circuit Appeals court has ruled that the protections of the Fourth Amendment do apply in these cases. Techdirt analyzed the decision:

In a somewhat surprising 9th Circuit ruling (en banc, or in front of the entire set of judges), the court ruled that the 4th Amendment does apply at the border, that agents do need to recognize there’s an expectation of privacy, and cannot do a search without reason. Furthermore, they noted that merely encrypting a file with a password is not enough to trigger suspicion. This is a huge ruling in favor of privacy rights.

The ruling is pretty careful to strike the right balance on the issues. It notes that a cursory review at the border is reasonable:

Officer Alvarado turned on the devices and opened and viewed image files while the Cottermans waited to enter the country. It was, in principle, akin to the search in Seljan, where we concluded that a suspicionless cursory scan of a package in international transit was not unreasonable. But going deeper raises more questions. Looking stuff over, no problem. Performing a forensic analysis? That goes too far and triggers the 4th Amendment. They note that the location of the search is meaningless to this analysis (the actual search happened 170 miles inside the country after the laptop was sent by border agents to somewhere else for analysis). So it’s still a border search, but that border search requires a 4th Amendment analysis, according to the court.

It is the comprehensive and intrusive nature of a forensic examination—not the location of the examination—that is the key factor triggering the requirement of reasonable suspicion here….

Notwithstanding a traveler’s diminished expectation of privacy at the border, the search is still measured against the Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness requirement, which considers the nature and scope of the search. Significantly, the Supreme Court has recognized that the “dignity and privacy interests of the person being searched” at the border will on occasion demand “some level of suspicion in the case of highly intrusive searches of the person.” Flores-Montano, 541 U.S. at 152. Likewise, the Court has explained that “some searches of property are so destructive,” “particularly offensive,” or overly intrusive in the manner in which they are carried out as to require particularized suspicion. Id. at 152, 154 n.2, 155–56; Montoya de Hernandez, 473 U.S. at 541. The Court has never defined the precise dimensions of a reasonable border search, instead pointing to the necessity of a case-by-case analysis….

The issue of cloud-based information was also addressed:

The court is equally worried about the fact that the device is often just a portal to cloud based services, and how a search of a device might lead to access to that data, even if it’s been snug and secure “in the cloud” the whole time, rather than crossing the border:

With the ubiquity of cloud computing, the government’s reach into private data becomes even more problematic.12 In the “cloud,” a user’s data, including the same kind of highly sensitive data one would have in “papers” at home, is held on remote servers rather than on the device itself. The digital device is a conduit to retrieving information from the cloud, akin to the key to a safe deposit box. Notably, although the virtual “safe deposit box” does not itself cross the border, it may appear as a seamless part of the digital device when presented at the border. With access to the cloud through forensic examination, a traveler’s cache is just a click away from the government.

It would also be safer to remove programs directly connecting to cloud-based services such as Dropbox when traveling, with the data still available by connecting over the internet. Uninstalling programs which make such services appear like another hard drive on a laptop would prevent the stored data from being as obvious to anyone inspecting a computer.

Rand Paul vs. Drones and Black Helicopters

In looking at the threats to civil liberties which we face, I cannot disagree with Rand Paul in opposing the use of drones to kill Americans who are not engaged in combat against the United States (criteria which is somewhat vague). It was good to see an someone actually speaking during a filibuster, even if at times it sounded like a paranoid rant about black helicopters and Tea Party fantasy. We saw more grandstanding than actual defense of civil liberties, with Rand Paul (like his father)  having a rather mixed record in this area. There are other more pressing matters of civil liberties which actually impact the lives of Americans, such as the right wing’s use of government to restrict reproductive rights. I will present an example of a victory on civil liberties which is far more significant than Rand Paul’s filibuster in the next post.

The irresponsibility of the Republican leadership in both Houses of Congress, more concerned with opposing Obama than either governing or even providing a responsible opposition, has created a situation where even a clown like Rand Paul provides a mixed moment of hope. Paul’s actual effort was a failure (as discussed in more detail in the several links in the paragraph above) but it at least did include an attempt to discuss an actual issue. A more through discussion of the use of drones, rather than obsessing about the quite rare cases of targeting Americans, would provide a more meaningful example of needed Congressional oversight. Regardless of the degree of support for Barack Obama, it is unrealistic to expect restrictions on the Executive branch to come from the President.

I do not agree with the all-out criticism of drones, seeing advantages to their use as opposed to putting Americans in direct harm. Question as to their use first depend upon whether the military action is justified, regardless if by troops on the ground or by drones. Use against Americans, while definitely something which must be watched, has been a rare event in unusual circumstances. Collateral damage is a consequence of war regardless of technique and criticisms of drones based upon deaths of innocent civilians is not a sufficient argument against their use.

The ability to target individuals with drones does create new concerns, and requires check and balances which are now absent. I have supported oversight analogous to the FISA Court, as others have also proposed, and the Obama administration is considering. This would provide some degree of judicial oversight, ending the idea that any individual (regardless of whether an American citizen) could be targeted for execution by drones with no oversight whatsoever. In addition, this would ensure that there is a record of the justification for the use of drones which could be reviewed by Congressional committees which might uncover any pattern of abuse. Ultimately such information should be declassified so presidents would know that their conduct would be judged by history. Unfortunately Rand Paul’s filibuster on targeted killings of Americans on American soil pandered to the paranoia of the black helicopter crowd as opposed to serious consideration of the issue.

Besides, if Rand Paul really thought that Obama would use drones against American citizens he wouldn’t have stood in one place for thirteen hours while criticizing Obama.

Quote of the Day

“In his first interview since losing the election, Mitt Romney says it kills him to not be in the White House. He said he’ll always think of it as the one house he couldn’t buy.” –Conan O’Brien